On some desperately needed laps around a track, a friend asked for ideas on getting her daughter to try to sound out words. Her son had always seemed to show an understanding that he needed to sound out words as well as a willingness to try. Her daughter however preferred the guessing game and often studied pictures for clues and easily became discouraged if asked to sound out words.
I’ve been there. My daughter, 8, is the same way. The good news is that they are using context clues. Looking for clues in the pictures is one good strategy, but of course can’t be the only one.
Breaking down the words:
So how can we encourage them to try and sound out the word? I have found that having them cover up letters and break down the words into parts makes the task less overwhelming. For example, recently my daughter came upon the word “beforehand.” She immediately started guessing, trying “beautiful, buffer…” and so on. I asked her to cover up all but the first two letters. She quickly read, “be.” Then I asked her to uncover the next four letters and she reached “before.” I then asked her to cover up the word “before” and she was able to read “hand” and finally to put the word together.
Using a decoder cover:
Often I’ll say something like, “Well, I know you know that “i-n-g” says “ing” so let’s cover that up and see if the word looks more familiar and then we can always add “ing” back on. My friend expressed her daughter’s unwillingness to use her fingers to cover up the letters so I suggested that she let her create a special decoding cover. You could use an index card, a tongue depressor, etc. and allow the child to decorate with markers or stickers. You can buy these decoders at education stores, but kids will enjoy and be more motivated to use their own creation.